The Addams Family

Year 1991

Raul Julia as Gomez Addams
Anjelica Huston as  Morticia Addams
Christopher Lloyd   as Uncle Fester Addams /  
Gordon Craven
Dan Hedaya as  Tully Alford
Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams
Elizabeth Wilson as Abigail Craven /
Dr. Greta Pinder-Schloss  
Jimmy Workman as  Pugsley Addams
Carel Struycken as Lurch
Judith Malina as Grandmama
Dana Ivey as Margaret Alford
Director - Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenwriters - Caroline Thompson
  - Larry Wilson
Characters' Father - Charles Addams

The Addams Family is a wonderful movie that soothes the skeptical curmudgeon in me. If you don't know, the movie is based upon a 1960's television series of the same name. The series is based upon characters created by cartoonist Charles Addams. Every month or so, "The New Yorker" magazine included a Charles Addams one panel drawing.

The family together

Before I get to the movie, though, let me tell you a bit about television and boys in the 60s. If a television station had a "hit" then another station was sure to follow with a derivative. Things haven't changed much. Back in the 60s, if ABC had a hit with "Bewitched" (1964 to 1972), then another station, NBC in this case, followed up with their own blonde magic user in "I Dream of Jeannie" (1965 to May 1970).

If ABC premiered "The Addams Family" (1964 to 1966) then CBS produced "The Munsters" (also 1964 to 1966). (This is a quibble, but since "The Addams Family" was shown one week earlier then "The Munsters" I think "The Munsters" is a copy. I'll bet that when CBS found out that the rights to the Addams Family characters were being purchased by ABC, they scrambled to come up with a competing series. Again, CBS is the copycat.)

And what about "Gilligan's Island"? After that was aired by CBS in 1964, ABC and NBC...sighed with relief? They decided not to compete with that atrocity. Oddly enough, "Gilligan's Island" is probably airing somewhere in the U.S. right now along with commercials tailored to the demographic of its watchers. Advertisements for lawyers and trade schools probably foot the broadcast bill for this program. What does that say about the type of people who watch "Gilligan's Island"?

I wish that I could take credit for that last joke, but it was pointed out to me by one of my "professors" while I was attending one of those trade schools. (If you can't laugh at yourself...)

Then there's the whole NBC's "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." thing. That series came out, sans women leads, in 1964. Then in 1965, NBC came up with "Get Smart" with Agent 99 and "The Avengers" was imported by ABC with Mrs. Peel. Then in 1966... Oh, go ahead and guess. Yes! NBC invested in "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E."!

Ah, 1964. What a weird and wonderful year for television.

What does this have to do with The Addams Family. I'll tell you.

Samantha or Jeannie?
Emma Peel or Agent 99 or April Dancer?
Mary Ann or Ginger...or Mrs. Howell?
Morticia or Lily?

For me and my friends, it was Morticia all the way. Emma Peel came in a close second. All the others? Also rans.

So what's the point? I liked "The Addams Family" not just for the humor but for the characters. John Astin as Gomez? Wonderful. Jackie Coogan as Uncle Fester? An icon! Ted Cassidy as Lurch? There is only one. Lisa Loring as Wednesday? Perfect. Blossom Rock as Grandmama? Who? What kind of name is Blossom Rock? And Ken Weatherwax as Pugsley? Poor Pugsley, the necessary but indistinct Addams.

So for the movie, The Addams Family had big boots to fill. Was it to be another television series to feature film disaster like The Flintstones (Wilma or Betty or Mrs. Slate? You see how this can go on and on?) or The Beverly Hillbillies (Elly May or Jane Hathaway or Margaret Drysdale? If you considered anyone but Elly May, then I'm not the sick one.) Or would it be closer to...I can't think of even a decent movie made from an old television series. Maybe Starsky and Hutch but that was less than enjoyable and bordered on deranged.

The plot of the movie is rather simple. Uncle Fester disappeared years ago and Gomez, his brother, is still holding out hope that Fester will return. A look alike is sent in to con the Addams' out of their cash.

It's not the plot that makes this one worth watching, it's the fact that the movie does not try to re-invent the television series. The characters and the sense of humor are the same. Oh, there are some differences, but they're minor.

Raul Julia is always likable and entertaining, whether he's playing opposite Susan Sarandon in Compromising Positions or William Hurt in Kiss of the Spider Woman. (Susan Sarandon or William Hurt? Okay. No more.) As Gomez, he's at least as good as John Astin. Astin was a bit more animated, but Julia is better suited to the name "Gomez". Look at the cartoon above again.

Anjelica Huston is not an object of sexual desire. She's a good actress and is convincing as Morticia Addams, but she's no Carolyn Jones. She doesn't even wear the dress with the octopus tentacles for a hem. She is oddly sensuous, though. (Angelica Huston or... Just kidding.)

Uncle Fester works with either Jackie Coogan or Christopher Lloyd. It's a toss-up. Christina Ricci as Wednesday (Wednesday's child is full of woe) is even better than Lisa Loring. The looks are the same, but the scathing condescension belongs to Ricci alone. And although Carel Struycken is tall, he's not as wide as Ted Cassidy's Lurch. In fact, Carel Struycken is a slightly effeminate Lurch if such a thing is possible for someone who just groans a lot.

Supporting players? Dan Hedaya is always a loose screw and he's just as entertaining here as in his other movies. Judith Malina as Grandmama nails the role and makes her character memorable. Even Jimmy Workman as Pugsley manages to give that character personality. Maybe it was the director, likely it was both the director and the actors.

Everyone seemed to have fun.

I'm a big fan of more than one thing happening on the screen at one time. Here's an example. Gomez is on the telephone with Sally Jesse Raphael. There's a view from the window and Granny is walking slowly with a club over her shoulder calling, "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty." It's a great combination. Just for the sake of completeness, later on, Granny announces, "Dinner's gonna be late," before heading out with the club and calling, "Here, boy." If you like that kind of humor, you'll enjory The Addams Family.

The jokes fly so quickly, that it's alright if some of them fall flat. Most of them hit. Like these...

Morticia (being tortured on a rack): You've done this before.

Margaret: Where's your costume?
Wednesday: This is my costume. I'm a homicidal maniac. They look just like everyone else.

Girl Scout: Is this made from real lemons?
Wednesday: Yes. Girl Scout: I only like all-natural foods and beverages, organically grown, with no preservatives. Are you sure they're real lemons?
Pugsley: Yes.
Girl Scout: Well, I'll tell you what. I'll buy a cup if you buy a box of my delicious Girl Scout cookies. Do we have a deal?
Wednesday: Are they made from real Girl Scouts?

Gomez: We danced the Mamushka while Nero fiddled.
We danced the Mamushka at Waterloo.
We danced the Mamushka for Jack the Ripper.
And now, Fester Addams,...this Mamushka's for you

Gomez: I would die for her. I would kill for her. Either way, what bliss.

Dr. Pinderschloss: The human spirit, it is a hard thing to kill.
Grandmama: Even with a chainsaw.

Susan Firkins, Wednesday's Teacher: And Harmony Feld has picked Jane Pauley.
Morticia: Have you spoken to her parents?
Susan Firkins: Well, Wednesday brought in this picture - Calpurnia Addams.
Morticia: Wednesday's Great Aunt Calpurnia. She was burned as a witch in 1706. They said she danced naked in the town square and enslaved the minister.
Susan Firkins: Really?
Morticia: Oh, yes. But don't worry. We've told Wednesday college first.

Pugsley being strapped into an electric chair: What game?
Morticia: It's called, "Is There a God?"

Gomez: That's the spirit, Thing. Lend a hand.

Morticia: Thing, you're a handful.

Wednesday: May I have the salt?
Morticia: What do we say?
Wednesday: Now!

Sight gags aren't ignored either. In the television series, the root of the humor was that what the Addams' thought was normal everyone else thought was macabre. In the movie, there's the school play where Pugsley and Wednesday bleed like a Japanese anime. The audience, covered in blood, is open mouthed (Yuck!) and speechless. The Addams family claps and cheers.

There are a couple of scenes that are dull or nonsensical. Like the ending where everyone goes out to play Wake the Dead. It made no sense and was weak. Too bad that the weakest part of the movie came at the end.

The underground vault seemed a bit too expansive and hence out of place. I could never tell if electricity was used in the house. Sometimes there are candles everywhere and other times it look likes electric lights.

I missed seeing Morticia's carniverous plants in the greenhouse. In the series, she fed them meat.

All in all, though, definitely worth watching. No nudity, blasphemy, or profanity. Who'd a thunk? Credit goes to the director, actors, and subject matter for doing something clever.

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